The utility of human sciences in nursing inquiry
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The utility of human sciences in nursing inquiry

Maria Pratt Sessional instructor and PhD student, McMaster University, Hamilton ON, Canada

Aim This paper targets novice nurse researchers to highlight how the perspectives of human sciences are useful in understanding people’s experiences.

Background There is a need to address the utility of human sciences or the humanistic philosophy that values the understanding of subjective experiences in nursing, given that the mainstream development of nursing knowledge is still influenced by the positivist and post-positivist research paradigms.

Data sources Discussion papers on Heideggerian hermeneutic phenomenology, human sciences, and qualitative research were accessed through the databases Cinahl and Medline over the past 30 years. Seminal works on phenomenology were addressed in this paper.

Discussion Using Heideggerian hermeneutic phenomenology as a commonly referenced human philosophy and methodology, this paper discusses how Heidegger’s (1962) perspective may be used in nursing practice and research. Van Manen’s (1990) descriptions of phenomenological science are discussed to address the perspective’s value in nursing inquiry and to reveal the biases associated with this humanistic approach.

Conclusion The limitations of human sciences should not deter nurse researchers from using this type of nursing inquiry as it can provide an important framework in nursing research, practice and knowledge development.

Implications for research/practice The author’s perspective as a graduate student highlights the importance of human sciences in exploring the experiences of people vital in the delivery of nursing practice. However, researchers wishing to undertake humanistic inquiry should learn the philosophical and methodological underpinnings of their chosen humanistic approach.

Nurse Researcher. 19, 3, 12-15. doi: 10.7748/nr2012.

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

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